Not your grandma’s country song

Michael Pearce, Sports Editor

Debate began on the internet over the viral trap/country sensation “Old Town Road” by Lil Nas X when Billboard removed the song from the country charts, claiming it does not “embrace enough elements of country music today.”

The song reached the Spotify No. 3 spot on the Top 100 as of April 8, and due to the virality of the lyrics, has become incredibly popular.

While “Old Town Road” may sound different than the typical country music, it still falls under the umbrella of country. The problem with Billboard removing this song from their charts is the way it puts artists and their music into boxes, where many songs can fall under multiple genres’ umbrellas.

Despite having a trap or hip-hop style of beat, “Old Town Road” has primarily country lyrics. Talking about his Wrangler jeans, matte black cowboy hat, boots and riding his horse till he just can’t anymore. I can’t think of much more “country” lyrics than that.

Lil Nas X has been very outspoken about this issue, posting a picture of the headline stating his song was removed from the country charts with the caption “extremely disappointed.”

In response to this controversy, Lil Nas X teamed up with Billy Ray Cyrus to release a remix of the song, which reached No. 1 on iTunes streaming the day it was released. Cyrus was outspoken about the song not being considered country, tweeting, “It was so obvious to me after hearing the song just one time. I was thinking, what’s not country about it?”

Removing a song the artist intended to be part country because it does not “fit the elements of today’s country music” is problematic. It forces artists to fit into a box or mold of what typical country should be, which limits creativity and growth. If artists are subject to Billboard’s definition of what a genre is, they lose some of their creative freedom.

At one point in music history, rap music was very methodical. It was much slower with less creative beats and not as much influence from the pop genre. It was very distinct, on its own island. Nowadays, artists like Drake, Post Malone and Juice WRLD are blurring the lines between pop and rap, incorporating more lyrics and melodies in their songs.

This is a positive thing for the rap industry, which is one of the most popular genres in the country because of its variety and palatability. A 13-year-old girl can enjoy a more lyrical song on a Drake album, and a 50-year-old “old head” man can enjoy the more traditional rap-sounding song that immediately follows it.

Country music could benefit from this sort of evolution, an evolution Lil Nas X is attempting to start with blurring the line between country and trap, which is a very distinct line right now.

Country has a stereotype, a negative view among many young people for being the same song over and over again. While that is incorrect, appealing to a wider audience would benefit the genre tremendously.

What Billboard needs to understand is with the internet-fueled boom of the music industry, music is evolving into newer and better forms. Music like “Old Town Road” is important to grow a genre and incorporate more people into country music, and it’s a shame Billboard can’t see that.